An ace is an important part of a ball club. Not only is he most often your best starter, but he can often act as a 'stopper', helping end losing skids, re-energize the team, and provide a confidence that lets the rest of the team know things are under control.
For the Toledo Mud Hens this past week, the team's ace was anything but a source of confidence.
After almost two months of consistently strong starts, Virgil Vasquez emerged from the All-Star break as shaky as he's ever been. In his two starts, Vasquez never made it past the fourth inning, and allowed a combined 12 earned runs. His control wasn't bad (only two walks), but the resulting 15.43 ERA ballooned his ERA almost a full point (from 4.32 to 5.04) in just two starts, and has some questioning Vasquez.
There could likely be an issue of shaken confidence, after yet again not getting the call up for another shot in Detroit. If you look back to earlier in the season, Vasquez had a similar hiccup around the time that Armando Galarraga was called up. Now, at a time when Eddie Bonine and Zach Miner got a shot in the rotation instead of Vasquez, something similar has happened.
With such a small sample size, it's not possible to state with any certainty that the two cases are related. But for someone that has been remarkably consistent over the course of his career, it's at minimum worth taking note of. If Vasquez truly wants to prove to be the ace of the Mud Hens (and prove to the Tigers' organization that he's a big league ready pitcher) – his confidence will be a key component to being able to get another opportunity.
One player who has had no such problems since coming back down from Detroit has been Brent Clevlen, especially in the week since the All-Star break. Clevlen did well in his Detroit cameo, and is now making his claim that he should be up in Detroit permanently.
Over the past week, Clevlen is hitting .375 with an impressive five home runs and eight RBI. In that same period, he's slugging an even 1.000 with an OPS that exceeds 1.500. Obviously it will be difficult to keep up that pace, but given Clevlen's impressive showing in both Detroit and Toledo, Clevlen is making a good case that he's ready to be playing at the big league level. And with the Tigers having such limited room, he could become a prime candidate for a trade.
One other prospect to be watching with the trade deadline approaching is Mike Hollimon. Though long term, Hollimon doesn't have the same hurdles in place that someone like Clevlen does, with players like Danny Worth and Cale Iorg coming up quickly behind him, the Tigers clearly have a surplus of middle infielders, one which likely could be dealt from should the need arise. With Hollimon being by far the one closest to being big league ready, he'll likely command the most attention on the trade market.